How Ball Bearings Reduce Friction? | SLS Bearings

Remember the three-pronged handheld fidget spinners, rotating with just a flick of your wrist and twirling endlessly between your fingers, which became the top therapeutic low-tech gadget of 2017?

How did it rotate so fast without stopping? What was the physics behind it?

fidget-spinnerFidget Spinner- One of the most popular device in recent years

In one (perhaps two) word, ball bearings.

When two object slide against each other, friction prevents them from moving smoothly. But, when you roll the object against another surface, the rolling friction proves to be far weaker than the sliding friction because the point of contact between the two surfaces is very insignificant.

Ball bearings create exceedingly low-friction. Think of watch movements, jet engine shafts, and skateboard wheel; all of these feature ball bearings of different grades and coefficients of frictions.

Even fidget spinners have these ball bearings right in the center of the toy between the ‘inner race’ and ‘outer race’ of the toy. Thus, by replacing sliding friction with rolling friction, the small bearings balls are used for reducing friction of moving parts of a machine or device.

In other words, bearings are used for providing improved linear or rotatory motion around a fixed axis.

However, a high-quality ball bearing is a matter of precision. These ball bearings are finely ground and machined to high tolerances for a polished finish. Therefore, looking for trusted ball bearing suppliers in Singapore is crucial for a long-lasting, frictionless motion of the machinery.


How Are Ball Bearings Able to Reduce Friction?

The rings and ball bearings are precisely machined to high tolerances and roundness. These ball bearings and ball tracks (raceways) are excessively polished to smooth rotation. This reduces the frictional torque, or you may say turning resistance.

Although non-lubricated bearings have the least amount of turning resistance or friction, but high-quality steel ball bearings need to be lubricated until the turning speeds becomes very low.

Using a low torque oil, these ball bearings are lubricated based on the running time and speed of the machinery and they may need to be constantly oiled with grease or lubricants. In fact, bearings without proper lubrication can result in premature failure. 

automatic-lubricatorChoosing the right lubricant for bearings is essential to prevent premature failure

An alternative to it is shielded bearing, the pre-lubricated ball bearing with a low torque grease (friction) to offer constant oil film between raceways and balls while radiating heat at the points of contact.

Without ball bearings, there would be an excessive production of heat and noise energy. Take the example of a vehicle’s wheel fitted to a stationary shaft without any ball bearing, the inner wheel would rub against the shaft causing friction and, thus, halting motion. Moreover, the constant metal to metal contact will lead to wear and tear and generation of heat energy (and noise too).

Thankfully, we have enough low-friction technologies to make motions smooth and friction-less over time.


Where Are Ball Bearings Used?

Found in a wide variety of applications, ball bearing is a cost effective for man industries and products. This type of bearing is typically used in applications which have a high speed and a low load. Ball bearings have been included in the manufacture of everything from everyday items such as blenders to skateboards to hard drives for maximum performance and functionality.

For industrial applications, ball bearings are primarily used in the following industries: 



The use of bearings can be found in critical parts of automobiles such as the engine, driveshaft,  steering column, wheels and driveline. These bearings help to improve the performance of vehicles, reduce friction, decrease carbon dioxide emission and enhance fuel efficiency, as well as allowing vehicles to readjust when travelling on rough terrain, dampen shocks and vibrations from sudden braking activity. Several types of ball bearings are used on motor vehicles, such as deep groove ball bearings and tapered roller bearings, and thrust ball bearings.  



Electrical power

Most electricity generation methods today uses electromagnetic induction, which requires moving a conductor relative to a magnetic field in order to generate electricity. Ball bearings are often used to enable the rotational movements that produce electricity in turbines. These bearings can also be found in other equipment such as pumps, compressors, and electric motors in coal-fired, wind, and hydroelectric power plants. As for wind power applications, ball bearings are used in sub-components such as rotor shafts, gearboxes, and generators.



Food and beverage

Ball bearings are frequently involved throughout multiple stages of manufacturing processes in the food and beverage industry. For instance, ball bearings are used to move various products from one part of a facility to another, often at high speeds and with high degrees of accuracy. Bearings are also critical for improving overall cost efficiency and play a crucial role in process automation. Food and beverage conveyors, slicers, and forming/filling machines all require ball bearings to perform their functions. 


Winding it Up:

To sum it up, ball bearings are effective in reducing friction between the moving parts of a machinery by using simple physics: replacing the sliding friction with rolling friction. These improve both the linear or rotational motion around a fixed axis.

High-quality ball bearings and roller bearings can be found in Singapore. Put through high-degree of pressure and tolerance with precision polishing, the ball bearings are ideal for usage in machinery. Be it ceramic ball bearings or steel ball bearings or plastic ball bearings, it’s crucial to utilize right type and quality of ball bearings in different types of machinery.

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**Some images were derived from


by SLS on July 21, 2020

categories: Product- Bearings

Written by SLS

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